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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Poet, Dramatist, and Man
Copyright, 1900, Hamilton W. Mabie. All rights reserved.
Chapter XV.—The Last Years at Stratford
T is impossible to overlook the recur- In each play there is a trace of the old rence of certain incidents and the fairy story—the story of the lost prince or
reappearance of certain figures in the princess, condemned to exile, disguise, Romances. “ Pericles,” “ Cymbeline,” or servitude ; and in the end the lost are “ The Winter's Tale," and the “ Tem- found, disguises are thrown off, evil plots pest ” are all dramas of reconciliation ; are exposed and evil plotters brought to tragic events occur in each of these plays repentance; suffering is recognized and and tragic forces are set in motion, but finds its sweet reward in the rebuilding of the tragic movement is arrested by con- its shattered world on a sure foundation, fession and repentance and the tragic and youth finds eager expectation merged forces are dissipated or turned to peace in present happiness. Prospero does not ful ends by mediation and reconciliation. break his magic staff or drown his book Coming close upon the long-sustained until he has reknit the order of life shatabsorption in tragic motives, the singular tered in the Tragedies, and reunited the unity of the Romances in organizing con- wisdom of long observation and mature ception, in serenity of mood, and in faith knowledge with the fresh heart and the in purity and goodness and love as sol noble idealism of youth. vents of the problems of life, make it im- In such a mood Shakespeare returned possible to escape the conclusion that the to Stratford about 1611. He was fortylater plays record and express the finalseven years of age, and therefore at the attitude of the poet towards the ultimate full maturity of his great powers. From questions of life.
the standpoint of to-day he was still a The chief figures in the Romances are young man ; but men grew old much earmen and women who have borne heavy lier three centuries ago. The poet nad sorrows-Prospero, Hermione, Imogen, been in London twenty-five years, and had Pericles, and the fair young creatures written thirty-six or thirty-seven plays, and whose purity and sweetness typify the a group of lyric poems. He was still in his immortal qualities of youth - Marina, prime, but he had lived through the whole Miranda, Perdita, Florizel, Ferdinand, 'range of experience, he was a man of and the brothers of Imogen. Behind these considerable fortune, and he had a wholesuffering or radiant figures there is, in some ambition to become a country geneach play, a pastoral background of ex- tleman, with the independence, ease, and quisite loveliness; a landscape so noble respect with which landed proprietorship and serene that it throws the corruption has always been regarded in England. of courts and of society into striking relief. His sources of income had been his
plays, which were paid for, in his earlier neighborhood. The houses in Henley years, at rates varying from twenty-five Street had come into his possession. The to sixty dollars-equivalent in present val- house at New Place, in which he took up ues to two hundred and fifty and six his residence, was a commodious and subhundred dollars ; his salary as an actor, stantial building; and the grounds, with which was probably not less than five the exception of a thin wedge of land on hundred dollars a year, or about three Chapel Lane, extended to the Avon. His thousand dollars in present values; the circumstances were those of a country returns from the sale of his poems, which gentleman of ample income. ran through many editions, and the profits When Shakespeare left London, he probof which his publisher undoubtedly shared ably withdrew from participation in the with him on some acceptable basis; and, management of the two theaters in which he most important of all, his revenue from was a shareholder, but his plays continued his shares in the Blackfriars and Globe to be presented. His popularity suffered Theaters.
no eclipse until the fortunes of the stage The Globe Theater provided room began to yield to the rising tide of Purifor an audience of about two thousand tan sentiment. During the festivities atpeople, and for a number of years before tending the marriage of the Princess Elizits destruction by fire in 1613 was almost abeth seven of his plays were presented at continuously prosperous. The transfer- Whitehall. That he made the three days' ence of public interest to the boy ac- journey to London at short intervals and tors, though long enough to send Shake kept up his old associations is practically peare's company into the provinces, was certain. comparatively short-lived. It is estimated His son Hamnet had died in the sumthat the annual receipts of the Globe mer of 1596; his father died in the early Theater did not fall below the very con- autumn of 1601, and his mother in Sepsiderable sum of two hundred thousand tember, 1608. When he took up his resdollars in current values. After provid- idence in Stratford in 1611, his wife and ing for the maintenance of the theater two daughters constituted his family. there must have remained a substantial The eldest daughter, Susannah, had marprofit. This profit was divided among ried, in June, 1607, Dr. John Hall, a physithe shareholders, among whom were cian of unusual promise, who became at a Shakespeare, Burbage, Condell, Heminge, later day a man of very high standing and and Philips ; all were actors and members wide acquaintance in Warwickshire. The of the company, and combined personal house in which he lived is one of the most interest and practical knowledge in the picturesque buildings which have survived atrical management. The profits of the from the Stratford of Shakespeare's time. Blackfriars Theater were smaller. Shake- Dr. Hall's daughter, Elizabeth, the only speare's great popularity after 1598 or 1600 granddaughter of the poet, was born in probably enabled him to secure much 1608. Mrs. Hall made her home in her larger returns from the sale of new plays later years at New Place ; there, in 1643, than were paid to the majority of play. she entertained Queen Henrietta Maria ; wrights; while the fees always distrib- and there, in 1649, she died. In the inuted at Court performances must have scription on her grave in the churchyard amounted, in his case, to a very consider- of Holy Trinity both her father and husable sum. From these various sources band are described as “gentlemen." Of Shakespeare probably received, during the her it was written : later years of his life, not less than fifteen Witty above her sexe, but that's not all, thousand dollars a year in current values. Wise to Salvation was good Mistress Hall. Mr. Lee, who has made a thorough inves- Something of Shakespeare was in that, but tigation of the subject, thinks there is no Wholly of him with whom she's now in blisse. inherent improbability in the tradition, reported by a vicar of Stratford in the fol- Her daughter Elizabeth married Thomas lowing century, that Shakespeare “ spent Nashe, a Stratford man of education, and, at the rate of a thousand a year.”
after his death, John Barnard, who was The poet had become the owner of knighted by Charles II. soon after the various properties at Stratford or in its Restoration. Lady Barnard, who was the
INSCRIPTION ON SHAKESPEARE'S TOMB IN HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, STRATFORD
last direct descendant of the poet, died in 1670. She had come into possession, by various bequests, of New Place, the Henley Street houses, the land in the neighborhood of Stratford, and a house in Blackfriars purchased by Shakespeare in 1613. The houses in Henley Street passed at her death into the possession of the grandson of Shakespeare's sister Joan, and remained in the family, as reported in a previous chapter, until the present century. New Place was sold after Lady Barnard's death, and subsequently came again into the hands of the Clopton family.
Judith Shakespeare married, shortly before her father's death in 1616, Thomas Quiney, a wine-dealer of Stratford, and lived for thirty-six years in a house still standing at the southeast corner of High and Bridge Streets in Stratford. It was known at that time as The Cage, because it had been used at an earlier period as a prison. The foundation walls of this ancient house are four feet in thickness; books and Shakespearean souvenirs of every kind are now sold in the shop on the ground floor. Judith Shakespeare had three sons, all of whom died in infancy or early youth. She survived her family and her sister Susannah, and died in 1661, at the age of seventy-six.
The records show that after his retirement to Stratford Shakespeare continued to give careful attention to his affairs and to take part in local movements. In 1613 he bought the house in Blackfriars, not far from the theater, which subsequently passed into the possession of Lady Barnard. The deeds of conveyance, bearing Shakespeare's signature, are still in existence. Comment has sometimes been made on the fact that the poet spelled his name in two ways, and that other people spelled it with complete disregard of consistency, and it has been inferred that he must have been, therefore, an ignorant person. A little investigation would have shown that in the poet's time there was great variation in the spelling of proper names. Men of the eminence of Sidney, Spenser, Jonson, and Dekker were guilty of the same latitude of practice in this matter, and even Bacon, on one occasion at least, spelled his name Bakon.
Shakespeare's friend John Combe, at his death in 1614, left the poet a small bequest of money and a legal entangle